She awoke with a start as the horn blasted, signalling that dawn was on its way. Ari sat up, wincing. She was full of aches and pains, covered in little bruises. She hurt in places she hadn't even known existed.
Inhaling shakily, she steeled herself for another day. Getting out of bed, she dressed herself in large, empty room. There were no other girls training at this time, so she was alone. There were four sets of bunkbeds, all empty save for the bottom half of the one in the far corner, furthest from the door. The chest at the base of the bed had her meager belongings, as well as her uniform.
She yanked it on hurriedly, and pulled her hair back and into a tight ponytail with her fingers as she raced out to join the others.
Halfway down the hall, she realized she'd forgotten her boots and cursed softly, then ran back. After lacing them up, she entered the hall to realize she was alone, and was the last to arrive in the mess.
There were no empty tables during breakfast, but it didn't matter. Wherever she sat, no one really talked to her. It didn't even seem mean-spirited so much as just... disinterested. They weren't interested in what a girl who'd joined up with the military (and had started off failing spectacularly at it) had to say. About anything. After a few aborted attempts at conversation, she'd largely resigned herself to eating by herself, ignoring the sharp sting of rejection deep in her belly.
In the yard, nobody could say she didn't try her hardest. She was always red-faced, panting, sweating. It was just that she wasn't as strong as the boys, wasn't as fast, wasn't as anything.
The sergeant rolled his eyes at her constantly, but even through his caustic comments, he didn't seem too dedicated to the idea of kicking her out. At that point, her can-do attitude was keeping her in, but she needed to get better. She knew that. So she worked at it. She ran outside of training hours, all around the military barracks, ignoring the looks. She did push-ups and sit-ups in her room, and when she found the bar against the far wall, she began to do pull-ups, too.
The days passed slowly, but not without some progress.
It was slow going, but Ari Branth was getting better. There was one day that she only came in second to last in the obstacle course. It was the proudest day of her life.